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No time for love

I feel so much better now ...
Dear Dr. Jones
by GZO Jones

ZO Jones is no ordinary guy. Just ask him – he'll tell you all about his murky triumphs back in the day, when beat was spelled with an upper-case "B" and men like Bukowski and Kerouac roamed the planet, mighty dinosaurs of the literary sort. But if his Brazilian Web site (GZO Jones Town) is any indication ... well, as we like to keep in mind, Dr. Jones has a way with words, never turns down a good question and hasn't missed a deadline.

Dear Dr. Jones,

The latest columns seem sorta different. Have you changed drugs or something?


Dear P,

To be perfectly honest, I haven't been myself since that late-autumn jazz festival in Sao Paulo. Two days in, during a set by Older Gentleman (an Ecuadorian "Joys of Oil" tribute band), I crashed and burned, which resulted in a three-month binge of sobriety. I feel so much better now ...

So, on to business. I'm not sure what you people really expect out of me – perhaps it's a comfortable melange of name-dropping, psychedelic references and fringe politics. Some people actually want advice from an advice column (shocking!).

Then there are those who, like this recent correspondent, have various trifles to posit:

1. Mr. Jones, if you were to break down the forms of time into three categories, what would they be? (You don't need to hold yourself to three, higher or lower is your choice; three is just a starting point.)

2. Mr. Jones, this is somewhat of a philosophical riddle that I thought to send your way and see what conclusion you might achieve. To prove a given postulate, mathematicians often work backwards to support comprehension through analysis. Take the following conclusion of "here equals I," and prove either with questions or statements how one would arrive at this answer.

3. Mr. Jones, if a news broadcast is a translation of an event and the written word is a translation of a concept then the actual experience of an event is a translation of ________.

4. Mr. Jones, if a blossoming flower is contained in the bulb, then my Now is related to the future by _______.

Whoa, camel! First off, that's Doctor Jones to you. I didn't spend five minutes e-mailing the ULC to be called mister, thank you very much.

Most people claiming to be philosophers really have one thing going – they're trying to be clever. That's why we have Kerouac, Bukowski ... and this month's joker.

Casual readers may forget where I attended seminary in my misguided past: 'twas the Jesuit college in Rome (named after the angelic doctor hisself). Anyway, I long ago abandoned philosophy as a strict discipline. But I feel capable of answering this semblance of challenge.

Most people claiming to be philosophers really have one thing going – they're trying to be clever. That's why we have Kerouac, Bukowski ... and this month's joker.

None of these "philosophical riddles" are indeed even that. They are quasi-modal exhortations that just itch for bricolage, and most armchair philosophers will begin a biased textual reading without realizing they're doing it.

Now, I long ago rejected positivism – and fully feel that all philosophical disciplines are subordinate to metaphysics. I agree with good ol' Luddy Wittgenstein, that our chief tool of philosophical understanding is linguistic analysis, by way of questioning ambiguities and removing needless jargon.

There's no need for a philosophical proposition, no matter how numinous, to be needlessly esoteric. And these four items are just that, which is an awkward approach for someone desiring a static logic-based interpretation, as I guess our friend, P, is.

Sorry to disappoint you, chief, but I'm simply going to give some commentary on your philosophical meanderings so the kids can learn something.

1. Time is a sticky proposition, because we thought we understood how it worked. Then came quantum entanglement and the shit hit the ceiling fan. I think there are not just physical kinds of time, but psychological. Three kinds are a good starting point for most people raised in the Christian West, but I'll pick six. That's the number of different types of time mentioned by the clever boys in Steely Dan. Collect them all!

2. Again, not a riddle, but here goes: You mention "mathematicians" and "proving." Well, far from being the lost verse of "The 12 Days of Christmas," it's actually an oxymoron. Even staunch math whizzes got stymied by Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, bringing that last rock of certainty crashing down. "Here equals I" is no proposition as I am aware of them. It's about as logically sound as "Rutabaga rutabaga fish." I'm sure some clever Johnny can work out a crowd-pleasing syllogism but, again, I have no use for logic in philosophy.

3. If, if, if! Here we have two subjects, two undefined terms, and a futile hope for conclusion in one shiny package! All of these terms need to be defined before any worthwhile construction can be made, but it still stonewalls when you hit the term "actual experience." It's not only the most hotly contested concept in philosophy but, in my opinion, also the most useless. The proposition might begin (and any philosophers in the house should be able to follow):

(p^q)–>r ...

... but you realize that r is essentially a tautology, and the entire thing is destined for the bottom of the parrot cage. If the terminology were streamlined and better defined, then we might have something to work with. If ...

4. The answer is "Blarney." There's another undefined relationship here, and most guesses (such as answers on an SAT) would be relatively correct, but it's nothing to make a big philosophical deal out of. What's really being asked? Wittgenstein is somewhere rolling in his grave (or twirling in his urn).

Enough of my nonsense. It's time for a homework assignment. Bearing in mind my feelings on linguocentric metaphysics, go read Morris Berman and the nonfiction of Umberto Eco. Then come up with some questions that will make your buddy Dr. Jones scratch the ol' noggin!

Oh – and for the hardcore fans of this column – hash pipe, anal sex, Ginsberg, Monroe Doctrine!

– Jones (Dr. Jones)

Examine more advice from GZO Jones, visit his Web site and e-mail your problems, large or small, to gzojones@hotmail.com.

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